What Child is This?

Title: What Child Is This?
Author: Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Maxfield Publishing
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length:  Novella 112 PDF pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5       

Summary Review: Would an abandoned baby at Christmas help to make the season bright or would it be a blight?        

THE BLURB        

A Not Quite Christmas” Story        

 Michael and Tristan are finally taking that much needed weekend away for Christmas. They’ve been working so hard at their respective careers there hasn’t been time for a breather, much less a chance to reconnect and see if they’ve been working toward what they both want. Not to mention some quality alone time.        

Like always, Michael’s well-laid plan is derailed by a phone call from Apple House. Three of their charges have gone missing and while Michael is worried, it’s not unusual for the young adults who stay at the shelter for homeless LGBT teens to come and go. But when one them calls Michael and asks if– hypothetically speaking–it’s considered kidnapping to keep a baby who’s been abandoned, Michael and Tristan head home with all speed to sort things out.        

Two couples need answers in a heartwarming holiday tale of taking stock, reaffirming commitments, and catching the perfect wave in What Child Is This? A Crossing Borders Christmas Story.        

THE REVIEW        

If you read and enjoyed Crossing Borders reviewed here with Officer Michael Truax and his young lover, 19 year old Tristan Phillips, you will understand how happy I was to revisit this couple 2-1/2 years after I first read this story. Crossing Borders was ZA Maxfield’s first book and I was anxious to see how the couple’s relationship had changed over the years. 

Officer Helmet, as Tristan called Michael when they first met, had retired from the police force to open Apple House, a shelter for troubled, homeless GBLT teens and young adults, while Tristan was defending his doctoral dissertation. The guys were more deeply in love if that were possible and Michael wanted to do something big for his “Sparky” as he still called Tristan, especially for the holidays since he seemed fragile and stressed out. Michael’s solution for what ailed Tristan was hard physical activity, hot lovin’ and some serious luxury, so he arranged for a very expensive weekend getaway for a memorable Christmas.  But before they left they had one more for the road to blow out a few cobwebs and tune up those body parts just like in the past, in case we forgot how hot this couple was and how their wonderful lovemaking steamed up the pages when they first met.        

Michael had done his best to ensure that his lover had everything he could possibly want – the accommodations were sumptuous, the food was just as great as advertised, and they soon ended up in bed doing what came naturally. The trust and love between them was even better than before as they re-committed their lives to each other. However while the cats were away the mice at Apple House decided to play and caused no end of trouble. Michael received an urgent call about the disappearance of a few of his young charges and they returned home to find chaos. Three of the residents, Jack, Prim and Kate, had left Apple House without permission because Prim was antsy and needed to get away and the others wouldn’t let him leave alone; they were determined to prevent him from doing anything that would get him into trouble with the authorities. To compound matters, Prim was very sick and hid the seriousness of his illness from his friends because he didn’t want them to know. Unfortunately trouble found them, in the person of an abandoned baby. Would they do the right thing and give up the baby to the authorities which was the sensible thing to do? Or would they allow their past experiences to colour their judgment?        

This story is actually two separate and distinct plots. Tristan’s and Michael’s second honeymoon which I loved, and what I call the ‘baby caper’ that left me with a lot of questions. First the positives:        

What I liked        

Being back in Michael’s and Tristan’s world and seeing how Tristan had transitioned into adulthood without losing his edge. He was still crazy to catch the perfect wave on his board.        

Michael’s ability to figure out that Tristan needed him as much as the residents of Apple House and give him what he needed, some hot, hot lovin’. He had allowed his responsibilities to take prioirity over his relationship and love for Tristan and his desire to fix his relationship in a way that would make Tristan realize he was #1 in his life was done well.        

The growth and maturity of their love.        

What I didn’t ‘get’        

The secondary plot in the book, involving three young residents of Apple House who were trying to find their way in the world with just about everything against them, and at the same time blow off some steam, didn’t seem realistic to me. Prim was very sick yet he was pushing his body beyond human endurance to help his friends care for a baby that they had found. He was very much in love with Jack but wanted to do what was right, yet he stayed to help with the baby’s care. I questioned the extreme pain he endured without medication, just to be near Jack.        

Kate, the lone female in the group, seemed to be relegated to the typical female role of caregiver at times, which was stereotypical.        

Jack was tough and uncompromising but had a soft heart, especially towards the baby they found. He was determined to keep the baby rather than do the right thing, because of his past experiences with the foster care system. While his attitude was understandable and his street smart persona was real given his past, I thought there could have been other ways for them to get money to feed the baby without Jack putting his life in danger, particularly in view of what had happened to him before.         

Having said that, I did like Jack, Kate and Prim because they were vulnerable and watched out for each other, but I thought that perhaps some of their misadventures could have been a little less ‘exciting’ and a bit more realistic. Hiding a baby, figuring out how to get the necessary funds for supplies and taking care of it is not exactly easy to do under the best of circumstances, and even though they were young and not the brightest bulbs it should have occurred to them a lot earlier that this was really not such a good idea. 
 
I did like this book in spite of the unevenness of the characterizations and the plot. I thought that the love between Tristan and Michael and their romance made up for what I perceived to be deficiencies in the secondary plot. Obviously this is only my opinion and it could be that my expectations of a different type of story had a lot to do with my less than optimal enjoyment. Many of you who read this book probably felt differently about it.

 
Z.A. Maxfield is one of my favourite authors and I look forward to her books so that I can immerse myself in her plots and characters. In this case, even though the secondary plot of the book didn’t quite work for me, the plot elements with Michael and Tristan more than made up for it so I definitely recommend What Child Is This?  One totally unrelated and irrelevant comment – even though this cover is fine, I did miss the red haired model on the cover of Crossing Borders. 🙂 However the picture on the cover may represent Prim and Jack.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

34 comments

  • I just got around to reading this book and I have to say I am really glad I read your review first. I think that I too would have been disapointed to find out that the book wasn’t totally about Tristan and Michael. So with prior knowledge I really enjoyed the story with Prim and Jack. CB was the very first M/M book I ever read and I still reread it every six months or so. Just love it!

    Reply
    • Hi Kathy
      Thanks for coming back. I guess sometimes reading a review before the book, is a good thing. 🙂 Because the sub plot was so unexpected it threw me but I’m glad that you enjoyed the book because you know about it beforehand.

      Reply
  • I was so delighted to learn that we will visit Michael and Tristan again, I was not bothered by the kids, but I just was shaking my head at the cover and wondering who the heck is the taller dude, did not look like Michael to me lol 🙂

    Great review Wave 🙂

    Reply
    • Sirius

      I think that cover will probably be what we remember since no one likes it. I think if they wanted to profile Jack and Trim maybe they should ahve waited until they had their own book:( I’m getting the sense that that’s who the couple on the cover is supposed to represent because they certainly don’t look like Tristan and Michael.

      Reply
      • Oh. OH. Did not even enter my mind that it could be Prim and Jack lol. Thanks Wave. Funnily, If they had Michael and Tristan in mind, I would have liked this cover better, since IMO 28 year old Michael looked so much older on the first cover, but they are just so different that you are probably right and it is Prim and Jack.

        Reply
        • I’ll ask ZAM about the cover but I think it’s supposed to be Prim and Jack. The guy in the back definitely does not look Caucasian and if you remember Prim is either black or another race because he’s described as “dark.” I should be a detective. lol.

          Reply
  • Hey Wave, I almost decided not to read this review because I just bought this book and if I’ve already made the decision to buy the book being reviewed, I try not to read the review because I don’t want any other opinions to skew how I feel. But for some reason, I felt the need to read this one and I’m so glad I did! If I hadn’t known that this wasn’t just Helmet and Sparky’s story I would have been so upset. So, at least now I know what to expect and I won’t shock me. Maybe then I’ll be able to appreciate the other story.

    So thanks! I owe ya one 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi cole
      Just trying to be helpful. lol. I was upset because this book was not what I expected, but maybe for you the review will make you more open to the other characters who were okay, just not what I wanted to read about. 🙂 I think you will enjoy this book because IMO ZAM has never written a bad book.

      Reply
  • I am a total sucker for Z.A. Maxfield. Anything put out by this author I buy immediately. I like when authors do follow-up stories on their original stories. I would have like to have seen more with Tristan and Michael, still a good read.
    Now that she has introduced these 3 new residents of Apple house. Another story?

    Reply
    • Hi Hannah
      Like you, I’m a total fan of this author.

      I get the sense that Prim and Jack will have their story told next, else why introduce them into a story with such a well loved couple like Tristan and Michael?

      Reply

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